Lake Lucerne Attractions

Lake LucerneLake Lucerne

The Vierwaldstätter See or Lake of the Four Forest Cantons (the three original cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden together with the canton of Lucerne) is commonly referred to in English as Lake Lucerne, but this is, in fact, only one of the lake's many arms. Lying at an altitude of 437 m/1,434ft, it is the fourth largest of the Swiss lakes (area 114 sq. km/44 sq. mi), length from Lucerne to Flüelen 38km/24mi; greatest depth 214 m/702ft), but is second to none in magnificence and scenic variety.

The great mountains with their endless scope for walks and climbs are reflected in the spacious surface of the lake. The famous lookouts of the Rigi, Pilatus and the Stanserhorn are brought within easy reach by mountain railroads and cableways. The beautiful shores of the lake with their southern vegetation offer numerous swimming places. The neat towns and villages provide luxurious or modest accommodation at the visitor's choice. These attractions, plus the lake's associations with the origins of the Swiss Confederation and the legend of William Tell all help make the Lake of the Four Forest Cantons one of the most popular tourist areas in Europe.

Boat excursions

Paddle Steamer or Lake LucernePaddle Steamer or Lake Lucerne
The shipping company of the Lake of the Four Forest Cantons (Lake Lucerne) has a large fleet of nostalgic paddle-wheel steamers in which you can visit well-known holiday spots and historic sites dating from the foundation time of the Swiss Federation around the lake.
Special attractions: Midday and evening trips with Folklore and dancing. Wilhelm Tell Express: You travel by steamer from Lucerne to Flüelen; and here you change into the train (saloon cars) to Lugano/Locarno. The connection can be made daily in both directions from May to October.
Special attractions in winter: Every Friday at 7 p.m. a fondue ship operates; New Year cruises with a gala dinner or a Spaghetti fiesta. During the winter season there are several regular services daily between Lucerne and Brunnen.
Address: Werftstrasse 5, CH-6002 Luzern, Switzerland

Northern & eastern shores (driving tour)

View from Rigi, Lake LucerneView from Rigi, Lake Lucerne
Leave Lucerne (altitude 438 m/1,437ft) on the Haldenstrasse, going past the Kursaal (on right) and the beautiful lakeside gardens and continuing close to the shore of Lake Lucerne. In 2km/1mi a side road goes off on the right (0.5km/0.25mi) to the public beach (park, camp site, restaurant) and the Swiss Transport Museum. The main road passes the Liliputbahn (a miniature steam railroad). Beyond this a road comes in on the right from the beach. Then the hotels on the Bürgenstock and later the Rigi come into view. The first place to be reached is Seeburg (440 m/1,444ft; beach), an outlying suburb of Lucerne. Beyond this, the road winds its way up to cross the Megger Berg (496 m/1,627ft), with fruit orchards and many houses, past the Meggenhorn, a little wooded peninsula on the right.


Meggen is a long straggling village (483 m/1,585ft). In Vorder-Meggen we find Schloss Neu-Habsburg (1869), with the tower of an older castle which Rudolf von Habsburg had built in 1240, but which was destroyed by the men of Lucerne in 1352. The mansion of Schloss Meggenhorn (1886-1899) was built by Viktor von Segesser on the model of French Renaissance Châteaux; the Neo-Gothic chapel is worth seeing. The parish church of Hinter-Meggen dates from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Lake Küssnacht

From Meggen the road enters the canton of Schwyz and continues along the northwest side of the Küssnachter See. 2km/1mi beyond the village of Merlischachen (444 m/1,457ft), below the road on the right, is the Astrid Chapel (1936), moved here in 1960 from its previous position on the left of the road, commemorating Queen Astrid of the Belgians, who was killed in a car accident here (spot marked by a cross) on August 29, 1935.


The road from Lucerne descends to Küssnacht (440 m/1,444ft), from which the main road (No. 2) continues via Arth to Brunnen. The more attractive road via Weggis and Gersau branches off on the right and follows closely to the east side of the Küssnachter See, passing through pleasant countryside below the west side of the Rigi. In 0.5km/0.25mi, it passes the lower station of the cableway to the Seebodenalp (on left). In 5km/3mi, on right, is the village of Greppen (454 m/1,490ft). The road now climbs (beautiful view of the lake to the rear) over a hill, with the Hertenstein peninsula to the right, and runs down to a junction. Here a road on the right leads to the popular resort of Weggis.

Küssnacht am Rigi - Lake Night Festival

This annual festival takes place in late July.


Weggis (440 m/1,444ft) is a popular resort prettily situated on the lake. A pleasant detour can be made to the public beach and to the Hertenstein peninsula (8km/5mi) and to the east a narrow road climbs 5.5km/3mi up the slopes of the Rigi (no road to the summit). The main road, bypassing Weggis, runs uphill again. 2.5km/2mi beyond the turning for Weggis, the old road comes in on the right. Nearby is the lower station of the Weggis-Rigi-Kaltbad cableway. Then follows a beautiful stretch of road, running close to the lake at the foot of the Rigi, with splendid views. To the right can be seen the Bürgenstock and its well-known hotels. Further on, there is a charming view of the narrowest part of the lake between the two promontories, the Obere and the Untere Nase, and of the Bürgenstock, with the Buochsehorn and Stansehorn rearing up behind it.

Rose Festival

This annual two-day festival takes place in late June and includes fireworks displays in the evening.

Vitznau and Rigi

Vitznau (440 m/1,444ft): a popular summer holiday resort affording extensive views, from which a rack-railroad ascends the Rigi (35 minutes). There is another rack-railroad up the Rigi from Arth-Goldau, to the east. At the far end of the village, on the left, are two cableways, one to Hinterbergen, the other to Weissenfluh (Wissifluh, 936 m/3,071ft: hotel), both giving access to fine walking country. The road continues past the beach and then winds its way around the Obere Nase, skirting the shore of the lake or running a little above it, with extensive views. 5km/3mi from Vitznau is the terminal of a car ferry to Beckenried on the south side of the lake (service every hour, taking 15 minutes).

Rigi - Alpine Herdmen's Festival

This annual day-long festival takes place in early July.


Gersau (440 m/1,444ft) is the oldest health resort on the Vierwaldstätter See, occupying a charming sheltered site. From here, a mountain road leads north (5.5km/3mi) to the lower station, at Gschwend (1,012 m/ 3,320ft: inn), of a cableway which runs northwest to the Burggeist guest-house, 20minutes below the Rigi-Sheidegg peak (1,665 m/5,463ft). Beyond Gersau, the road continues close to the shore or on the wooded slopes above the lake. It passes the old Kindlimord chapel (rebuilt 1708), at the foot of the Rigi-Hochfluh (1,702 m/5,584ft), with a view of the two peaks of the Mythen. Soon after this, the Lake Uri comes into view beyond the Treib promontory. 4km/2mi further on, to the left, is a cableway up the Urmiberg.

Brunnen and Axenstein

In Brunnen (440 m/1,444ft) we join the St Gotthard road, coming from Lucerne and Zurich via Arth. The lakeside route from Brunnen to Flüelen follows this road. At the Wolfsprung Hotel an attractive little mountain road (3km/2mi) goes off on the left via the health resort of Morschach and the holiday center of Axenfels (turn left), past the Rütliblick Hotel to the Axenstein (708 m/2,323ft), with a superb view of both arms of the Vierwaldstätter See.

Axenstrasse and Lake Uri

The road to Flüelen leads along the magnificent Axenstrasse, which runs above the steep east shore of the fjord-like Urner See (Lake Uri), passing through numerous tunnels and galleries blasted from the rock (it is possible to walk along some stretches of the old road, built in 1863-65). The St Gotthard railroad running parallel to the road, sometimes below it, also passes through many tunnels. On the far side of the lake can be seen the crag known as the "Schillerstein" (named after the German dramatist whose works include "William Tell") and, higher up on the Seelisberg the Rütli meadow where the original Swiss Confederation was established. Just before Sisikon, the road enters the canton of Uri.

Sisikon - William Tell's Chapel

Sisikon (457 m/1,499ft), at the mouth of the Riemenstalden valley, has a modern church built in 1968. Beyond this, the road continues through more tunnels to the Tellsplatte Hotel (512 m/1,680ft), with a parking lot and beautiful gardens (view of the massive Urirotstock, 2,932 m/9,620ft). From here, a footpath (seven minutes) leads down to the famous Tell's Chapel (known to have existed since at least 1500; restored 1881, with paintings by Stükelberg), on the spot where William Tell is traditionally supposed to have leapt out of Gessler's ship during a storm. From the hotel, a cableway runs up in four minutes to the Axen station (825 m/2,707ft). 1km/0.5mile further on the Axenstrasse enters its last tunnel, with an old gallery (lookout) on the right.

Flüelen (Schloss Rudenz)

Flüelen (440 m/1,444ft), a port and holiday resort at the south end of the Lake Uri, is built on the delta at the mouth of the canalized river Reuss. Near the station, behind the old parish church of St George and St Niklaus (1665) stands the little Schloss Rudenz, which once belonged to the lords of Attinghausen, whose estate extended to the shore of the lake and who controlled the customs station. Here stands an iron sculpture "Schwurhände" which Witschi created for the 1964 exhibition.
There is a cableway up the Eggeberge (1,440 m/4,775ft).
Flüelen is the landing-stage for boats from Lucerne. Passengers who have booked the "William Tell Express" excursion transfer here to the railroad to continue their trip into southern Ticino.

Reuss - Delta Project

The Reuss plain is the only large level area in the canton of Uri which does not form part of the mountainous region. In 1966, work was begun to reform the Reuss delta, which had been partly canalized between 1850 and 1863 and from 1939 provided with flood protection. An opening in the dam on the left permits the water to flow into the plain and thus create a new shallow water zone; a new channel is to be created on the right. The mouth of the river which has hitherto extended far into the lake will be restricted and, eventually, previously inaccessible supplies of gravel for quarrying will be made available.

Western & southern shores (driving tour)

Seelisburg LandscapeSeelisburg Landscape Benjamin Chaulet
Leave Lucerne (altitude 438 m/1,437ft) by Pilatusstrasse and Obergrundstrasse (to left). Just after Paulusplatz a road goes off on the left to Horw (445 m/1,460ft) from which it is possible either to travel southeast to Winkel, attractively situated in a bay on the lake, or to continue along the shores of the lake to Hergiswil. The main road continues straight on past the turning for Horw. In 0.5km/550yd, we bear left on to the N2 highway which we follow, at first running below Pilatus at some distance from the lake, and then above the lake, a beautiful view of the Rigi, the Bürgenstock and the Stanserhorn. To the left (highway exit) is the summer holiday resort of Hergiswil.

Hergiswil and Lopperberg

Hergiswil is a popular summer resort on the lake (445 m/1,460ft; beach). At Brunni (825 m/2,707ft) 1.5km/1mi farther on, is a cableway which takes six minutes to reach the Gschwänd Alp (1,216 m/3,990ft) on the north side of Pilatus.
The N 2 highway continues on a beautiful stretch of road above the lake, running along the slopes of the Lopperberg (965 m/3,166ft), an outlier of Pilatus, and comes to a junction where the road diverges on the right to the Brünig Pass which can also be reached by taking the Sarnen exit after Hergiswil.

Hergiswil - Glass Museum

The history of glass and glassblowing is demonstrated in the Hergiswil Glass Museum.
Address: Seestrasse 12, CH-6052 Hergiswil am See, Switzerland

Alpnacher See (Stansstad)

The N2 runs over the channel, only 150 m/492ft wide, between the Vierwaldstätter See and the Alpnacher See to the exit for Stansstad (438 m/1,437ft: beach), the port for Stans, a summer holiday resort and the beginning of the road to the Bürgenstock and the road and railroad to Engelberg.
On the shores of the lake stands the Schnitzturm, a relic of old fortifications. 1km/0.5mi northeast on the Harissenbucht (restaurant and night-club) is a funicular (382 m/1,253ft) which climbs in four minutes to the Kurhaus Fürigen (650 m/2,133ft). From Stansstad a very attractive road runs east, climbing through the forest, then through the meadows of a high valley and finally through another stretch of forest to the parking place (fee) at the great complex of fine hotels on the Bürgenstock (878 m/2,881ft).


The N2 highway runs through the fertile valley (fruit orchards) between the Bürgenstock and the Stanserhorn to the exit for Stans (455 m/1,493ft), a little market town (population 6,000), the capital of the half-canton of Nidwalden, the eastern half of the canton of Unterwalden. In the main square are the parish church (rebuilt in Baroque style 1641-47) and a monument to Arnold von Winkelried, hero of the Battle of Sempach (1386). To the right of the church is a double chapel of 1482 (charnel-house); to the left, above the church, stands the Town Hall (1715) where can be seen an interesting collection of paintings of Swiss cantonal officials. The Höfli is a restored medieval secular building. To the east of the center the Kollegium St Fidelis has a small natural history collection. The former salt and corn store (1700) on the Stansstad road near the Stanserhorn funicular houses the Historical Museum, with a collection of weapons, uniforms, flags and official robes of the 16th-19th C., as well as costumes, religious art and paintings from the canton of Nidwalden.

Corner House

The cultural history of the surrounding area is exhibited in this 16th C corner house.
Address: Kehrsitenstrasse, CH-6371 Stans, Switzerland

St Fidelis Natural History Museum

The St Fidelis Natural History Museum is a small museum covering the flora and fauna of the region.
Address: Mürgstrasse 20, CH-6371 Stans, Switzerland

Salt Store

Changing art exhibitions are seen in the former salt warehouse.
Address: Kehrsitenstrasse, CH-6371 Stans, Switzerland


A combined funicular and cableway ascends in 25 minutes to the panoramic restaurant on the Stanserhorn-Kulm (1,849 m/6,067ft), five minutes below the summit of the Stanserhorn (1,901 m/6,237ft), from which there are superb views of the Uri, Unterwalden and Bernese Alps, the Vierwaldstätter See and the Alpine foreland.
Address: Stansstaderstrasse 19, CH-6370 Stans, Switzerland

Engelberger Aa

From Stans, the road to Seelisberg (Treib) branches off on the left and rejoins the N2 highway, which crosses the fertile open valley of the Engelberger Aa and then the river. To the left is the Bürgenstock, to the right the Buochsehorn, ahead the Rigi.


The next highway exit after Stans leads to Buochs (440 m/1,444ft), a village, beautifully situated on the bay of the same name, which attracts many summer visitors; it has a church prominently located on higher ground.


From Buochs, a good road runs north to Ennetbürgen, below the east side of the Bürgenstock (road only as far as the Kurhaus Honegg: beyond this point no through traffic). Beyond Buochs, the road to Seelisberg skirts the lake, with a beautiful view of the Rigi.


At the near end of Beckenried, on the left, is the departure point of the car ferry to Gersau. Beckenried (440 m/1,444ft), a long straggling village at the end of the lakeside road, also popular as a quiet holiday resort.


A cableway runs up to the Klewenalp (1,600/5,250ft) from which there is a beautiful view embracing the lake, the Rigi, the Mythen, the Glarus Alps and the Alpine foreland area with its lakes (good skiing; ski-lifts).

Niederbauen and Stockhutte, Emmetten

Beyond Beckenried, the road to Seelisberg leaves the lake and crosses the highway to Emmetten (762 m/2,500ft), a straggling village and summer holiday resort in a sheltered setting. The road continues uphill for a short distance before descending steeply near the church into a beautiful green Alpine valley and then climbing again on a moderate gradient to the Niederbauen (1,927 m/6,322ft: on right, a cableway from Emmetten) and the Stutzberg. From Emmetten there is a cableway to the Stockhütte (1,286 m/4,219ft).

Seelisberg Lake

In 3km/2mi from Emmetten, the road winds its way up through forest and then runs down and passes through a tunnel, beyond which there is a picturesque view of the Seelisberger See far below (736 m/2,415ft; beach).


Beyond the Seelisberger See a road branches off on the right to the Rütli meadow in the middle of the forest, where tradition has it that the Swiss Confederation was established. Here, in 1291, the three "forest cantons" of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden joined in an alliance which became the foundation of the "Perpetual League" against the Habsburgs. The Tell legend, which received its classical form in Schiller's drama "William Tell" (1804), was a later addition to the traditional story.


The Lucerne road runs to the health resort of Seelisberg (804-845 m/2,638-2,772ft), situated on a wooded terrace high above the Vierwaldstätter See. The road passes the pilgrimage chapel of Maria-Sonnenberg (1667) and the funicular to Treib, and then descends through the forest, after which there is a superb view of the Vierwaldstätter See and the Rigi.


Treib (440 m/1,444ft), picturesquely set on the tongue of land between the Vierwaldstätter See and the Urner See, was formerly a little trading town and a haven for shipping on the lake. A funicular goes up to the Seelisberg (1,149 m/3,770ft, eight minutes) where there is a charming inn, built in 1903 in imitation of the previous inn (1658). Treib, where the road ends, has a landing-stage for the lake ships.

Seelisberg Tunnel

The highway southeast of Beckenried, opened in 1980, passes through the 9.3km/5.8mi long Seelisberg Tunnel to the south bank of Lake Uri and then to the St Gotthard road.

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